Many years ago Sony launched an ad campaign for their PlayStation 3 that utilized the slogan, “It Only Does Everything.” And that’s a shame. Because had Sony not coined that catchy phrase in 2008 it might’ve been used just as well by Fujifilm today to market their newest Instax camera. The Instax Mini Evo is a hybrid digital instant film camera that truly does everything.
It takes digital photos, allows us to apply filters and lens effects to these photos, and then gives us the freedom to decide whether or not we want to instantly print those photos. It’s got Bluetooth, built-in storage, a big LCD screen, a nice CMOS sensor, and a selfie mirror (admit it, you care about this). It even works as an Instax photo printer to print any picture or image from a smartphone via its own dedicated app (which works surprisingly well).
I’ve spent the past couple of months shooting the Mini Evo, and though there are two or three problems with the camera, it really is a wonderful thing. It’s easily the best Instax Mini camera that Fuji’s currently producing. And though it costs about twice what the average Instax camera costs at $199, the plentiful features of the Evo perfectly justify this higher price.
Fuji Instax Mini Evo Specifications
- Camera Type : Digital Hybrid Instant Film Camera, also functions as a smartphone Instax photo printer
- Film Type : Instax Mini Film
- Image Sensor : 2560 x 1920mm (1/5″ type) CMOS
- Image File Format : JPEG
- Lens : 28mm f/2
- Focusing Modes : Automatic focus from 3.9″ to infinity
- Exposure Control : Automatic Exposure
- ISO Range : Automatic from 100 to 1600
- Shutter Speed : 1/8000th to 1/4 second in Auto
- Metering Method : Multi Through the Lens 256-zone metering
- Exposure Compenation : +/- 2 EV, user controlled
- White Balance : Automatic, user-selectable modes for flourescent, incandescent, sun, shade
- Self-Timer : Yes, 2 or 10 second delay
- LCD Display : 3″ fixed LCD display
- Flash : Built-in flash with automatic mode, and forced ON mode; flash range from 20″ to 59″
- Media and Storage : On board storage for 45 photos; One microSD card slot for added storage
- Battery : Built-in lithium-ion, charged via micro-USB cable
- Battery life : Approximately 100 shots per charge
- Wireless Connectivity : Yes, via Bluetooth connection to Fuji’s app for smartphones
- Dimensions : 4.8 x 3.4 x 1.4″ (123 x 87 x 36mm)
- Weight : 10.1 oz (285g)
Further Details of the Fuji Instax Mini Evo
The major points, to briefly reiterate, are these- digital camera, makes instant photos on Fuji Instax Mini film, pairs to smartphones via Bluetooth and an app, can print photos from phones. Looks good doing it.
On the surface, this camera is doing nothing that other Fuji Instax cameras haven’t done before. However, the beauty of the Evo is that it combines all of these core design features with a slew (a veritable slew, I tell ya) of secondary features. At the core of these primary and secondary features is user control.
Fundamentally, the camera allows the user to make the photos they want to make and print the photos they want to print – two things that aren’t necessarily the status quo in instant film photography. We can decide how a photo should look and then decide which of these become instant prints. Polaroid cameras and the more rudimentary or truly analog Fuji Instax cameras don’t typically allow this (with those cameras, you get what you get, and you get a print of every shot – good or bad). With the Evo, we shoot and shoot and shoot until the photo looks right, and then decide at any time whether or not a photo is worthy of becoming an instant photo (which is nice, considering that every Instax Mini photo costs close to $1.00).
The Mini Evo gives us exposure controls, white balance controls, lens filters, saturation adjustment, special effect filters, and more. In fact, Fujifilm boasts that the Evo can make images that benefit from 100 different combinations of effects.
Compared to other Fuji Instax film cameras, the Evo offers a degree of easy creative control that’s simply unrivaled. The Mini Evo isn’t a Fuji X Pro, but it’s as close as an Instax camera can get.
Controls and Practical Use
The camera is designed intuitively and everything works the way that it should. Instant film photographers who have used a Fuji Instax or Polaroid camera in the past will instantly understand what to do to make a picture, and anyone who’s used a digital camera with an LCD and menu buttons will understand, too. That effectively covers everyone who would ever be interested in this thing.
We turn on the camera and, if satisfied to only go that far, we simply point and shoot. The camera does all of the hard work of focusing, calculating exposure, and making a picture. A photo is made and displayed on the LCD screen. If we want to print it, we crank the delightfully tactile print lever (the style of which will be recognizable to many film photographers for its callback to the film advance levers of many of the most popular 35mm film cameras), and an instant photo ejects from the camera’s film slot.
There are two shutter release buttons, one on top and one on the front. This makes shooting the camera in both landscape orientation and portrait orientation feel natural. It also give us an easy method for shooting selfies, which is nice. I like taking selfies with my kids. It proves that I was there.
There’s an accessory shoe on the top plate, which is most useful for mounting a self-powered light, and a tripod socket on the bottom.
Additional buttons on the top and back of the camera control the advanced user controls, such as exposure compensation, flash control, white balance, and more. A dial on top controls the special effect filters. Just scroll through and the camera displays the selected filter name and its impact on the photo shown in live view on the camera’s LCD. The same functionality applies to a rotatable ring around the lens, except this one changes the lens effects.
I used the Evo during a coastal drive to Maine. Along the way north my family and I stopped at Cape Neddick, a rocky peninsula jutting aggressively into the marbled onyx waves of the Atlantic Ocean. From the cliffs of the peninsula we could see an island, upon which stands the Nubble Light, a homely light station that’s been lighting the seas around since 1879.
The skies were overcast and everything was grey, a typical day as we approach winter in New England. We stood against the wind and the salty spray of the bleak sea for as long as we could be bothered, which wasn’t long, considering we had a five- and seven-year-old in tow, and also considering that my idea of a perfect day is comprised mostly of sun and temperatures strictly higher than 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
As we retreated to the shelter of the car I cast a last glance back at the island. Just then the sun burned one small window through the clouds, casting lonely rays onto the light station. I wouldn’t call it a beacon from heaven, but in the least, it changed the formerly grey light house into its appropriately bright white.
I took a photo and reviewed it on the LCD. It was okay.
I adjusted my exposure compensation to bring the light down, and took another. This one was starting to look like something.
I added a monochrome filter to the shot by simply rotating a dial. And now we had a photo. One of my favorite instant photos I’ve ever made, in fact. It’s nothing special. But it’s moody and dark and interesting. Truthfully I could have made the same shot on another instant camera, but I certainly couldn’t have made it as easily or as inexpensively.
Similar control on a boutique instant camera will cost a lot (I’m thinking MiNT’s machines), or if I tried it on an older Polaroid with exposure control the photos simply won’t be as vivid (Polaroid film just isn’t as good as Fuji’s Instax these days), or the camera will be heavy (something like the Nons instant cameras could do it, but they’re bigger and heavier than the Mini Evo).
No, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced. I couldn’t have made this shot the way that I did with another instant camera. And that idea has only further solidified as I’ve continued to use the Fuji Instax Mini Evo.
A few days ago I set up a photo shoot with a pear. The fruit. Nothing special. I wanted to illustrate all of the different looks that a photographer can get from the Mini Evo simply by doing nothing more than rotating the ring around the lens or the dial on the top.
Intentional chromatic aberration, mirrored imagery, vivid film simulations, lower exposure, lower saturation, artificial light leaks – the list goes on and on. And in use, it’s lovely. The variety and texture of these photos is wonderful. Pictures of a pear. Who would have guessed?
But the thing that’s been most exciting about my time with the Mini Evo is that it’s freed me from the stress of Instant Photography.
I would never have attempted this pear photo shoot with a Polaroid camera, or with my Fuji SQ1, a camera which I love, simply because it’s so expensive to waste film. I’d be fumbling around with actual glass filters, holding them in place over the lens, or I’d be changing colored gels in a soft box to get the desired effect, or I’d have to buy a prism to bend the light, and every time I took a photo I’d be spending up to a couple bucks, depending on the film and camera I chose.
Besides being prohibitively expensive, it would also be difficult. I’d never get the results that I was hoping for, and any decent photos would be (despite my claims to the contrary) nothing but happy accidents.
With the Mini Evo I’m free to shoot whatever I want, take a look at the results, and decide if they’re worth the money of a print. If not, I fiddle some dials and keep inching my way closer to a photo that looks good enough to force that chemical reaction.
Of course I could do the same with my phone and then print the shots with Polaroid’s analog printer. But, honestly, Polaroid film just isn’t that good. I think I’d rather do this.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Smartphone App
When I first received the Fuji Instax Mini Evo from my friends at B&H Photo, I was reluctant to try the accompanying smartphone app. I read about it and thought, “Oh, good. Another sluggish, poorly made afterthought of an app. Do I really need to download this?”
For the sake of this review, I did.
My preconceived notions were wrong. The app works brilliantly. It’s fast and responsive. Its user interface is highly legible and easily discernible at a glance. It connected my phone and camera within seconds, and worked flawlessly every time that I opened the two.
From the app it’s possible to remotely trigger the Evo to make a picture, change flash settings, and activate the camera’s self timer. The app is also able to transfer and save printed images from the camera onto the smartphone. Lastly, and most interestingly, the app allows users to direct print images from their smartphone onto the Instax film in the Mini Evo.
I spent a lot of time printing images from my phone, images that would have otherwise stayed locked in that digital tomb forever (or at least until I got around to having them printed professionally – so, likely never). And they came out beautifully.
What’s also enticing about the direct print feature is that the app also allows us to edit our print within the app before sending it to the camera for printing. It gives the ability to crop, zoom, rotate, add filters and to even correct brightness, contrast, and saturation. This is critical to tweaking an image to get the best possible Instax print.
Quick review of the Fuji Instax Mini Evo app – amazing job, Fuji. I couldn’t be more impressed.
Where the Instax Mini Evo Falls Short
Though it’s true that the Instax Mini Evo is (probably) the best modern, mainstream instant film camera that I’ve used, it does let me down in a few ways. These small issues are just that, small. But they exist, and here they are.
To start, Instax Mini film is, as the name suggests, quite mini. The physical photos with their now iconic white border are about the size of a business card at 2.1 x 3.4″ (54x 86mm), and the actual image area is naturally even smaller at 1.8 x 2.4″ (46 x 62mm). And that’s always been a problem for me. The pictures are just so small.
This can be seen as a good thing, in the right light. Instax Mini film is cute and fun, and they fit all snuggly wuggly into those similarly cute Instax Mini photo albums we see on the shelves in Target. The tiny film fits the aesthetic of the target demographic of the Instax film shooter. They’re good for kids and young people. But while my seven-years-old daughter adores the cute, tiny Instax Mini film prints, I inevitably find myself wishing they were bigger. This is why I have always been so taken by Instax Square cameras. But there’s no Instax Square camera as good as the Mini Evo. There just isn’t.
My second gripe is that the Instax Mini Evo has a design flaw, even if it’s not critical.
The flap that covers the ports on the bottom of the camera is made of flimsy rubber and it’s held in place with a truly ephemeral strand of fiber that I’m sure will break before the camera’s blown the candle out on it’s first birthday cupcake. I can easily imagine I’ll see a lot of Mini Evos come into my shop with missing flaps in the future.
Lastly, there’s no way to edit images that have already been shot in the Mini Evo before printing. This seems like such an oversight in the design that I was, in fact, sure that I’d made a mistake. I spent about two days researching how to edit pictures within the Mini Evo before printing. But I don’t think it’s possible. So any filter effects or lens effects that you’d like to apply to your images need to be made at the moment the image is made, or you’re out of luck. There’s no in-camera editing.
The takeaway on this one is simple. This is the best Fuji Instax Mini camera that you can buy right now. It’s more expensive than the average instant camera, but it’s worth the money, and in fact it will save money in the long run, since we’ll only be printing the photos we definitely want to print.
The creative control that it offers is second-to-none in the mainstream instant film camera market. It’s super compact, and easy to use. The photos it makes are lovely, and if they’re not, you can adjust your settings and try again. And, let’s not forget, it looks great! The Fuji Instax Mini Evo really is the only instant camera that Only Does Everything.
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So cute. I must use one day for fun.